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NEW TALES TO TELL: David J talks Bauhaus, Love and Rockets, Bowie, magick and more at ACM@UCO

Nick Oxford / Red Dirt Report
David J (seated) signs an autograph for Guestroom Records manager Will Muir at ACM@UCO.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – In the darkened Songwriting Room at ACM@UCO on Thursday afternoon, it was standing room only when Red Dirt Report arrived to listen to legendary musician David J. Haskins (whose stage name is “David J”) discuss his life and the music he made with Bauhaus, Love and Rockets and as a solo artist over more than 35 years.

David J spoke to Red Dirt Report’s Louis Fowler earlier this week, in advance of his concert at the ACM@UCO Performance Lab in Bricktown tonight (which can be read here), and was equally talkative in front of the Master Class students – and fans, of course – who wanted to hear more about his life in those two important goth and alternative rock bands.

So, in this intimate environment, ACM@UCO Executive Director and CEO Scott Booker sat across from 58-year-old David J and asked him various questions about the two bands, Bauhaus’ role in the 1983 horror film The Hunger and much more. David J was in Bauhaus with singer Peter Murphy, guitarist Daniel Ash and drummer Kevin Haskins .

ACM@UCO's Scott Booker interviews David J. on Thursday. (Nick Oxford / Red Dirt Report)

Asked Booker: “When did it start happening for Bauhaus in the States?

“It was just about to and then we had a big argument and we split up,” David J said. “We came over here in ’83, played three nights at the Roxy and they sold out real quick. There was definitely a buzz happening … and we split up.

“It was always very fractious, always a very volatile band,” continued David J. “And it’s a double-edged sword. It’s great because it fuels a lot of fire and passion on stage, in particular, but on the other side where you think I can’t think of being in a band any longer with this person.”

A few years after Bauhaus broke up, David J said, Love and Rockets was formed with him, Ash and Kevin Haskins. They would go on to have great success in the U.S., including a Top 5 single in the U.S. with “So Alive.”

But before all of that, David J. said, it was Ash who allegedly had wanted Bauhaus to reunite, although Murphy wouldn’t agree to do it and would have some moderate success with solo albums including Deep (1989) and Holy Smoke (1992). Murphy, who still has a rabid fanbase, is currently on a solo tour and will play a now-sold-out show in Dallas in April.

Booker noted David J.’s interest in David Bowie, who was a large influence on him and Bauhaus. In fact, the band would record a cover of Bowie’s 1972 track “Ziggy Stardust” in 1982. And much more recently, in fact right after listening to Blackstar and then learning Bowie had died after a gig in Portland in January, David J tells the ACM@UCO audience he had written a song and recorded a song for his musical hero, a song which is to be called "The Day That Bowie Died." A very moving and personal song for David. J. He reportedly will debut it at tonight's gig here in Oklahoma City. 

David J (Bauhaus, Love and Rockets) always enjoys talking to fans. (Nick Oxford / Red Dirt Report)

“Tell us about the movie The Hunger,” asked Booker. This was a 1983 film which included Bowie playing a vampire and the band plays "Bela Lugosi's Dead" as the opening credits roll.

David J responded: “The director, Tony Scott, saw Bauhaus perform on a TV show called Riverside and he was playing ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ on it. He saw this and thought it would be perfect for the film and so (Scott) talked to Bowie and said ‘What about this band here?’ and Bowie said, ‘Yeah, that’s cool’ and so that’s how we got that gig. We were kind of over the moon.

“And it was just one day of filming. It was filmed in London at a gay club called Heaven where we had played and that’s the scene you see when the band is on stage and Bowie and Catherine Deneuve are scoping the club for their next victim.

“I had one delicious meeting with Bowie. We were setting up cameras for the next shoot and adjacent to Bowie’s dressing room they had this great old 1950’s jukebox and it was stocked with 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s tracks. And I was just having a look at the selections and I was aware of this presence looming over my right shoulder and I hear this voice, ‘You mind if I pick one?’ And it was Bowie, wearing that sharkskin suit he wears in the film. And I say, ‘Please, be my guest.’ And he chose ‘Groovin’ With Mr. Bloe,’ by Mr. Bloe circa 1970, I believe. And he just started dancing to it, and he’s like doing the Bowie moves,” David J says, doing an impersonation of classic Bowie dance moves.

“And I always thought when the album Low came out, the Bowie album, there’s a track on it, ‘A New Career in a New Town’ there’s a harmonica part on it that’s like the one on ‘Groovin’ With Mr. Bloe.’”

So I said, ‘Ya know, I said this reminds me of something.’ And he says, ‘Yeah, what is that?’ And I say, ‘This is one of yours.’ And he says, ‘What is it?’ And I say, ‘A New Career in a New Town’ and with a look of surprise and a smile, puts his finger to his lips and says ‘Shh!” indicating David J was right on target.

Smiling, David J added: “It was a great experience. A treasured memory.”

There was also a question about Love and Rockets and whether being in that band was “too easy” when compared to his time in Bauhaus.

“It’s not as challenging as Bauhaus,” he said. “Not that we fashioned it to be otherwise. We did the music that was in us. I think it had, naturally, a more commercial feel, especially here in the States. It took off pretty quickly.”

“Why did it take off more here than in Europe?” asked moderator Booker.

“I think because we were drawing off of American influences,” David J said. “I think it was more rock oriented. I think it resonated more with the spirit of the times more. The Paisley Underground and the psychedelic revival that was going on here. It became easier and we became popular when we had the single (1989’s “So Alive”) and our gigs were growing. It was a weird audience. And a lot of them only knew us through the single so you were getting a lot of 15-year old girls. It was very strange. And we purposely decided to fuck it up. We knew they wanted the single so we’d go out and play a wall of sound for many, many minutes. It was improvised, throwing a spanner in the works.”

David J autographs the sleeve of Love and Rockets' 1985 single "If There's a Heaven Above." (Nick Oxford / Red Dirt Report)

He added that when Love and Rockets was touring with The Pixies he and his bandmates admired the way that pioneering alt-rock band handled their art and their success, while acknowledging that with “So Alive,” Love and Rockets had “slipped into this commercial stream.”

And while there is always the appeal of “the big bucks,” it’s “not worth selling your soul for.”

MAGICK & MORE

David J recently penned a critically-acclaimed book about his time in Bauhaus, along with his interest in the occult titled Who Killed Mister Moonlight? Bauhaus, Black Magick & Benediction. A lot of the tales he shared with the ACM@UCO audience are noted in the book, as Booker noted.

Members of the audience asked about the Bauhaus artwork, with David J noting that a lot of it was designed by him and Daniel Ash. And that the early work was inspired by David J’s interest in German Expressionism art and film of the 1920’s.

Another question regarded the beat poet, artist and writer William S. Burroughs, a figure who even in the 1970’s and 80’s, when Bauhaus and Love and Rockets were around, resonated strongly with artists, musicians, occultists and counterculture figures – including David J, who around the time of recording Bauhaus’s album The Sky’s Gone Out (1982) was into Burroughs and “books on magic” – was familiar with Genesis P-Orridge (Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV) and interest in Burroughs and magic, including “sigil magic.” It was David J’s knowledge of sigil magic which led to him actually meeting his hero Burroughs not four months later.

“Sigil magic, where you decide on a desire, your will,” David J. said. “You write it down and you extract letters … and out of the letters that are left you make a graphic image that is symbolic of that desire. Memorize it, set fire to it and let it go out into the universe. And then the idea is that the universe does its thing and it then come to fruition.

“My desire was simply to meet William Burroughs. And then a matter of four months later, just out of the blue, I get this invitation to perform at William Burroughs’s 70th birthday. A celebration concert in Toronto. It was extraordinary meeting him. Such a mythic character.”

NO APOLOGIES

One of the more interesting questions to come from the audience came from a young man near the front of the room who asked if David J was unapologetic. This was a bit of a vague question for the guest, but then he rolled with it, saying that for the most part, “Never apologize, never explain.”

“I and the bands I’ve been in are about pure expression and being authentic and being true to that visio,” he said. “Following your vision, your personal vision, whether that is individual or collective. No one should have to apologize for being authentic.”

David J added to that in reference to his time in Bauhaus.

“Probably the most exciting time, when (Bauhaus) started, was when we were getting heavy resistance,” he said. “When it comes too easy, it’s too easy. It’s boring, you know?”

And David J, ever the gentleman, and never boring, definitely likes to keep things interesting.

David J. will perform with his band tonight at the ACM@UCO Performance Lab at 329 E. Sheridan Avenue. Tickets to the performance are $20 and available through Ticketstorm.

And to check out David J.’s website, go to www.davidjonline.com.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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